Tag Archives: Temple

Aphrodisias — City of Love and City of Marble

Aphrodisias — One of the most beautiful antiquity sites in Turkey.

The Monumental Gate (tetrapylon) at Aphrodisias. Click on images to Enlarge and/or Download.

Many groups that have visited Turkey have visited Laodicea, one of the seven churches of Revleation (chaps. 1-3).  While in the area they visit nearby Hierapolis and sometimes unexcavated Colossae.  However, because of time constraints, rarely is Aphrodisias visited.

Aphrodisias is an extensively excavated and beautifully restored Greco-Roman city that is located about 25 miles west southwest of Laodicea/Denizli in Turkey.  It was named after its patron deity—Aphrodite (= Venus, the goddess of love).  Because of its wonderful marble quarries, it was a center of sculpture carving for the Roman Empire.  Because of these things, it is sometimes called “the city of Love” and/or “the city of Marble.”  It was excavated in 1904-1905 and continuously from 1962 until the present.  The main excavator, Kenan Erim died and is buried at the site.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.   Over the next few posts, I would like to share with you some of the wonders of this site, as well as some insights that we can gain from it.

First of all, the city of Aphrodite must have a temple to the goddess of love—Aphrodite!

The Tetrapylon was a monumental gateway to the Sanctuary of Aphrodite built ca. AD 200.  This gateway led from a main north-south street into a large forecourt in front of the Temple.  Its decoration has a richness typical of the second century AD.  A complete scientific reconstruction (anastylosis) of the monument was completed in 1991.  It was made possible by the extraordinary preservation of the structure — 85% of its original marble blocks survive.

View looking northwest at the Monumental Gateway ( = tetrapylon) that was the main entrance into the Temple of Aphrodite Complex from the east.

The above image is a view of the exterior of the Tetrapylon.  The stone pavement in the foreground was the main north-south street that ran in front of the gate.  On the left, behind the gateway, where the person is standing, was the forecourt of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite.  Note the variety of columns on plinths: plain columns, spiral columns, and fluted columns.

The Temple of Aphrodite was the main temple of Aphrodisias and was begun in the late first century BC.  Zoilos, a leading citizen of Aphrodisias who also sponsored the construction of the Agora and Theater, paid for the initial construction.  In the second century AD, the temple was enclosed in an elaborate colonnaded court, framed by a two-storied columnar façade on the east, and by porticos on the north, west, and south.

View looking north northwest at the south side of a large Byzantine Church that was built over the former temple of Aphrodite.

The church was built around AD 500.  The church was constructed by reusing many materials from the temple of Aphrodite.  All the columns that are visible are from their position in the church.  In the lower-left foreground, the stubs of columns are from the portico that surrounded the church.  The church remained in use until the Seljuk conquest of the region around Aphrodisias in about AD 1200.

This larger-than-life statue of Aphrodite was found in the Bouleuterion (Council House).  It dates to the second century AD.

The head of Aphrodite was veiled and she wears a heavy casing (ependytes) on which are, from top to bottom, the Three Graces, the Moon and the Sun, Aphrodite on a sea-goat, and Eros figures sacrificing at an incense altar.

Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and fertility (= Roman Venus). The original Aphrodite was done by Praxiteles for the city of Knidos in the fourth century B.C.  A much more common presentation of the deity is illustrated below.

Statue of Aphrodite with an inscribed shield.

This statue of Aphrodite is from Perga and is made of marble and is about 6.4 ft. high fand dates to the second century A.D. If you click the “Download” button the Greek inscription on the shield is clearly visible.

This “type” of Aphrodite is also found at Aphrodisias as the example from the Sculptor’s Workshop below shows.

This is an unfinished statue in marble of a naked Aphrodite seated on a rock.

This unfinished piece dates to the second or third century AD.

Previously, I have written briefly about the significance of the Temple of Aphrodite at Corinth in relationship to the Corinth that Paul visited—see Here.

For additional images of the Temple of Aphrodite and the Byzantine Church at Aphrodisias see Here. 

Aizanoi (Turkey) — A Monumental Site — Visited by Paul?

Aizanoi (Aezani, modern Çavdarhisar) is a site that is located 170 mi. southwest of Ankara (as “the crow flies”).

Temple of Zeus at Aizanoi

One of the best-preserved temples of the ancient world is located there as are the impressive remains of a stadium, theater, bathhouse, meat market, etc.

Aizanoi is a very large Roman site located on the banks of the Penkalas (today Kocaçay) river, a tributary to the Rhyndakos.

Dr. Mark Wilson states that “Paul probably passed through the Greco–Roman city of Aizanoi while passing through Mysa on his second journey to Troas (Acts 16:8)” Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, p. 161.

For additional High Resolution image of Aizanoi Click Here.

Tarsus — A Very Unusual Roman Building

Very few tour groups have a chance to visit Tarsus and if they do, they typically visit only the excavations in the center of town (see previous post) and the associated “Well of St. Paul“).  However, there is a very very massive building that is hard to locate and is situated on the edges of residential and industrial neighborhoods.  It is called the “Donuktash” (Turkish for “frozen stones”).  The foundation seems to be composed of a hardened conglomerate of medium size pebbles.

exterior-foundation

View looking north along the eastern wall of the Donuktash. The preserved portion of this foundation reaches to a height of about 15 ft. [4.6 m.]. This foundation wall is 335 ft. [102 m.] long — about the length of a football field! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This mysterious and massive structure is apparently the foundation of a large, second century A.D., Roman Temple.   The exterior core of the temple remains, as do some significant interior foundations—for the marble and stone facing have been stripped away during the centuries.

interior-south

View looking south at the current interior space of the Donuktash. It is longer than a “football field!”  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The exterior walls are visible on the right (west) and left (east) sides of the image.  In the far center is a massive foundation upon which the central building (cella) of the temple probably stood.  Even though this picture was not taken from the extreme north end of the Donuktash, it does give some perspective to its size—335 ft. [102 m.] long. The whole structure awaits excavation.

The Donuktash may have been an Imperial Temple dedicated to the Roman Emperor Commodus (A.D. 177–192).

To view additional images of the Donuktash Click Here.


When we visited the site the gate was locked (it always is) and it seemed impossible to find a way in.  I thought to myself that there was no way to keep out the local children, so I asked our guide to ask the neighbor “how to the kids get in?”  Well, the answer was, “there is a ladder around the back!”  So, we climbed the latter to examine the interior!  (remember the walls are 15 ft. high!)

Donuktash28

Students checking out the “cella” of the building.

Donuktash29

Investigating the walls of the Donuktash.

Donuktash30

Exiting the Donuktash.

My Favorite Site in Israel

People often ask me “what is your favorite place to visit [in Israel]?”  This is a tough question to answer, for I am “in love” with many “sites” in Israel.  But when forced to commit myself, my favorite site is a not-too-well-known place called Omrit — a site that is located on the western slopes of the Golan—just east of the Huleh Valley.

Plaza and approach to the Imperial Temple at Omrit (Caesarea Philippi?)

 

Omrit Excavation Teams

One major reason for my “love” of Omrit is that here you can really clearly see the foundations and significant architectural pieces of  THREE temples that actually look like temples—including the one that Herod the Great built for the worship of the Roman Emperor Augustus and that was actually in existence in Jesus’s day!

Josephus says that Herod the Great built three such temples, one at Caesarea Maritima (but virtually nothing of the Herodian original is visible to today), at Sebastia (where significant remains of a second century AD rebuild are visible), but here at Omrit the foundations and architectural fragments of “Herod’s Imperial Cult Temple” still exist!

Earliest “Shrine” — that was later covered by two later temples!

Since 1999 J. Andrew Overman of Macalester College of St. Paul, Minnesota(USA) has been excavating the site.  He has discovered three successive religious structures—the earliest (a “shrine”) dating to the Early Roman Period.

Southwest corners of the:
First (slightly above and left of center) “Herodian Temple to the Emperor Augustus”
and the Temple from the time of Trajian (lower right)

Huge “composite” capital (combination of Corinthian and Ionic orders) and large base
Note the acanthus leaves

Overman believes that the first Temple was built by Herod the Great to honor his patron—the emperor Caesar Augustus (ruled 28 B.C. to A.D. 14).  Many believe that his temple was constructed in nearby “Panias” but Overman argues (I think correctly) that it was here at Omrit—”in the vicinity of Panias”—that it was constructed.  The second “Temple” was probably constructed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajian (A.D. 98-117).  The finds here are so significant that the Israel Museum has a prominent display of them.

Upside down corner capital of the “composite” order

To view new images of Omrit Click Here.

Architectural Fragment

Solomon’s Temple — A 3D Video (5 min)

Daniel Smith has created an informative, beautiful, video that illustrates what Solomon’s Temple looked like.  This 3D model is based upon 1 Kings 6 and 7 and uses some of the material that Leen Ritmeyer presented in his excellent book The Quest.  Ritmeyer says:

Although I don’t agree with some of the details, the video is well worth watching.

Enjoy.

HT: Leen Ritmeyer

Pigeons Pooping in/on the Second Temple?

Recently there has been some interesting discussion on how much of the temple was covered by gold plating—see for example Leen Ritmeyer Here (plus reference to The Biblical Archaeological Review)

golden-vine

The “Golden Vine” as presented in Avi–Yonah’s model of the temple (= a “minimalist” view as to the amount of gold used). Note on the top of the temple the “golden spikes” to prevent birds from alighting and “pooping” in the Temple precincts. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Ritmeyer discusses the various views regarding the ‘gold plating’ of the temple and the magnitude of the vine, he is more of a “maximalist” than Avi–Yonah.  He also cites the following from Josephus:

From its summit protruded sharp golden spikes to prevent birds from settling upon them and polluting the roof. (War 5.207–226 and also Ant. 15.391-395)

Please see image above.

In March of 2014, when visiting Capernaum, I noticed that the Franciscans had tried the same technique to ward off the pigeons.

PigeonCapernaum01

Note the two pigeons contentedly nesting among the spikes(!) above the light on the left! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It looked to me like the Franciscans were trying the old “Second Temple technique” to deter the two nesting pigeons—unsuccessfully!  Hmmmm . . . .

Not very Christmasy, but I couldn’t resist ;-)!

Aside

Leen Ritmeyer has done more for our understanding of the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif) than anyone else. So far he has published 8 different studies including informative diagrams that describe the development of the Temple Mount through history:  Mount Moriah, … Continue reading

Omrit — The Remains of a Fantastic Roman Temple in Israel

Omrit is a site that was situated in pre–1967 Syrian territory but since then has been in Israeli controlled territory on the western slopes of the Golan—just above the Huleh Valley.  It is situated about 2.5 mi. southwest of Banais/Panias (= NT Caesarea Philippi) on the road that led from the Huleh Valley to Damascus.

Plaza and approach to the Imperial Temple at Omrit (Caesarea Philippi?)

Since 1999 J. Andrew Overman of Macalester College of St. Paul, Minnesota (USA) has been excavating the site.

Earliest “Shrine” — that was later covered by two later temples!

Overman has discovered three successive religious structures—the earliest (a “shrine”) dating to the Early Roman Period.

Southwest corners of the First (upper left) and Second (lower right) Temples

He believes that the first Temple was built by Herod the Great to honor his patron—the emperor Caesar Augustus (ruled 28 B.C. to A.D. 14).  Many believe that his temple was constructed in nearby “Panias” but Overman argues (I think correctly) that it was here at Omrit—”in the vicinity of Panias”—that it was constructed (see the articles listed below).  The second “Temple” was probably constructed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajian (A.D. 98-117).

For additional images of Omrit Click Here.

The “seldom visited” Asclepion at Corinth

Most visitors to Corinth stop at the small, but significant, museum located on the site.

Terra Cotta Body Parts Found in/near the Temple of Asclepius at Corinth

There they have assemble a large number of terra cotta body parts that were Continue reading

Huge Temple of Zeus in Athens

The Temple of Olympian Zeus is located just outside of the ancient city of Athens—east southeast of the acropolis.

Temple of Zeus — From Acropolis in Athens

Temple of Zeus in Athens

This huge temple went through several variations but the main one was begun in the fourth century B.C.  Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.); “the abomination of desolation” Daniel 11:31) was very active in building it.  It was under construction when Paul visited Athens.  It was finally completed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian (ca. A.D. 132).

It was one of the largest temples in the ancient world measuring 360 ft. [110 m.] long and 140 ft. [43 m.] wide.

Column That Fell in 1852

The building was surrounded by 104(!) columns of which 16—one toppled—are still preserved.

For additional free high resolution images Click Here.